CLEVELAND Ex-Bucci workers: Traficant didn't pay
One Bucci worker helped to bale hay at the farm.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- Three truck drivers who delivered slag or sawdust to U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s horse farm testified today that the congressman didn't pay for the materials or their labor.
Merrill Whippo of Canfield, James R. Raggazzine of Girard and Tim Walsh of Youngstown once worked for paving contractor Anthony R. Bucci.
Bucci's now-defunct Girard companies, Asphalt Specialist Inc., then Prime Contractors, bid primarily on federal, state and county paving projects.
Whippo, who worked for Bucci in the mid-1990s, said he hauled about 80 tons of slag to Traficant's horse farm in Greenford and had been at the farm four to five times.
Whippo recalled helping bale hay at the farm and said the congressman was there and helped out a little bit.
Bernard A. Smith, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Whippo how he was paid.
"I was on the Bucci clock," Whippo said.
Raggazzine said he was at the farm four to five times and would deliver sawdust into the horse arena. He, too, said that Traficant didn't pay him, Bucci did.
Smith asked Raggazzine if he'd ever seen the congressman's father at the farm. Raggazzine said "never."
Rep's questions: Traficant asked Raggazzine if he knew the elder Traficant. Raggazzine said he didn't. The congressman also wondered if Raggazzine knew that the elder Traficant owned the farm. The witness said he did not.
Walsh said he was at the farm three or four times and delivered sawdust. Traficant asked if any sawdust was used across the street at Bucci's brother's farm. Walsh said, "Not that I knew of."
Traficant asked if Walsh ever left an invoice or a bill, and Walsh said that he didn't, although he did on other jobs.
Walsh said he was told to bring everything back to "Tony."
Videotape to come: Traficant's racketeering trial resumed today with the videotaped testimony of a sick witness waiting in the wings.
Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor, told jurors in his opening statement that they wouldn't have to rely solely on the word of crooked contractors such as Bucci, who awaits sentencing on mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS in an unrelated case.
Bucci testified last week that, from the late 1980s until 1996, he provided free labor and materials to Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, in return for favors.
Last week, a partial restaurant place mat was introduced as evidence that Bucci said represented a list of things Traficant wanted done at the farm.
Requests testing: Traficant asked today that the place mat and the wallet Bucci kept it in be made available for forensic testing.
"I'm tipping him off so he can burn his wallets now," Traficant said before the jury filed in. The government agreed to the test as long as an FBI agent can be on hand to make sure the document is not altered or destroyed.
Bucci had initially billed Traficant for the work done at the congressman's 76-acre horse farm at 6908 W. South Range Road, Greenford, and, after repeated attempts to collect, threatened to sue for payment. He later agreed to forgive the debt and "own" the congressman.
The jury, Morford said, will see the letters and faxes Traficant sent on behalf of Bucci and three other contractors who did free work at the congressman's farm.
Morford asked the nine women and three men early in the trial to "watch for the little witnesses that corroborate the big witnesses." The congressman always got something back for himself each time he took official action for the contractors, the prosecutor said.
One of the little witnesses, in what Morford has called the "chorus of witnesses," is Thomas Williams, a retired Ohio Department of Transportation inspector. The court recessed for three days last week to allow Williams, who has cancer, to give a videotape deposition near his Cape Canaveral, Fla., home.
Awaiting documents: Traficant complained today before testimony started that there were pages missing from Williams' personnel file that he received last week.
He said he wants the judge to withhold showing the tape until he receives all the documents that he wants.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells told the congressman to contact the lawyer for ODOT who released the file.
"If you're not willing to do what you need to do, I'm certainly not going to do it for you," she said.
The judge reminded Traficant that as long as he is representing himself, he has to do this type of follow-up work.
The judge said the videotape will not be shown until a transcript is received.
Bucci's testimony: When questioned about Williams last week, Bucci testified: "Personally, I hated him."
Bucci said he found Williams to be one the most knowledgeable engineers he'd ever come across. The paving contractor hated Williams because "he made me follow the specifications."
Williams, Bucci testified, was a no-nonsense, by-the-book inspector and anyone who "tried to pull the wool over his eyes" had a problem.
The 60-year-old congressman obtained the ODOT inspector's personnel file in an attempt to show that other contractors had lodged complaints against him.
Billak to testify: Set to testify today was Richard J. Billak, chief executive officer at Community Corrections Association Inc. CCA is a halfway facility on Market Street in Youngstown that accepts inmates, some federal, serving out the remaining months of their sentence.
One of those inmates was Bucci, who had been at a federal prison in North Carolina in the early 1990s. Bucci testified that Traficant was able to get him transferred to CCA after only 70 days in prison, which was unusual because the Bureau of Prisons typically waits six months before agreeing to such a move.
Traficant wrote to the federal prison and Billak on Bucci's behalf.
Bucci said he was out on leave while at CCA and didn't call in, which put his leave privileges in jeopardy. Traficant sent a fax to Billak, and no punishment followed, Bucci said.
Contractor's son: Another inmate sent to CCA with Traficant's help was A. David Sugar Jr.
Sugar's father, A. David Sugar Sr., has admitted that he committed perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in the Traficant case. His sentencing is pending.
The elder Sugar, of New Middletown, admitted providing false testimony when questioned at the grand jury about whether his company, Honey Creek Contracting in Petersburg, billed and received payment from Traficant for work done at the congressman's farm.
Sugar also directed his secretary to create fake invoices and mailing dates and give those records to an FBI agent in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Sugar then told his secretary to misrepresent facts about the fake invoices if asked by the FBI.
Court records from Newark, Ohio reveal why Sugar Jr. went to CCA.
On May 17, 1999, a Licking County Common Pleas Court judge suspended the younger Sugar's driver's license for three years and sentenced him to a year in jail on a felony DUI conviction. The DUI was his fourth in six years.
Traficant had one of his staffers arrange for a lawyer to represent Sugar Jr. and wrote letters to the judge and Billak at CCA, Morford said.
The judge ordered that, after 60 days in the Licking County jail, Sugar Jr. be released to a Mahoning County community-based correctional facility for six months.
Traficant wrote to Billak on July 15, 1999, and referred to a conversation about Sugar Jr. that Billak had that day with Anthony Traficanti, the congressman's regional director in Youngstown who is also on the prosecution witness list.
Traficant thanked Billak for assisting Sugar Jr. to continue his daily duties with his father's construction company.
Allowing the younger man to work as a condition of probation would be therapeutic for him and advantageous for the overall continued success and operation of their company, the congressman wrote.
In return, Sugar Sr. did $10,000 worth of work at the farm, Morford said.